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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read for sunny Provence
I am a huge fan of GGK's work, though looked forward to this book with a little trepidation as I am not such a huge fan of teenage boys! I had recently read Robin McKinley's Dragonhaven (a very different book!), which has a teenage boy narrator, and found it heavy going. But Ned Marriner has a likeable personality, realistic but not annoying, and is a sympathetic...
Published on 26 Jan 2009 by Sakerfalcon

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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit let down
I, too, look forward eagerly to each new GGK book release and the latest was no exception.

However, despite his usual mastery of language and some gorgeous descriptions of the area around Provence, I found it hard to connect with the characters in this book. When you look at the depth of characterisation in some of his other work (The Lions of Al-Rassan or...
Published on 15 Mar 2007 by Janet Mckenzie


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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit let down, 15 Mar 2007
By 
Janet Mckenzie (Hants, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ysabel (Paperback)
I, too, look forward eagerly to each new GGK book release and the latest was no exception.

However, despite his usual mastery of language and some gorgeous descriptions of the area around Provence, I found it hard to connect with the characters in this book. When you look at the depth of characterisation in some of his other work (The Lions of Al-Rassan or Tigana for example), it really brings home how most of the protagonists are only lightly drawn with the broadest of strokes.

Sadly, the plot also felt a little on the light side - a lot of questions were raised but then many allowed to fall by the wayside and ignored. Perhaps Kay was having too good a time researching in Provence to focus to the level he is capable of?!

Still, that said, it's still an enjoyable read but if this is your first foray into Kay's work, you might prefer to start with some of his earlier works instead to get a true impression of what he's capable of.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read for sunny Provence, 26 Jan 2009
By 
This review is from: Ysabel (Paperback)
I am a huge fan of GGK's work, though looked forward to this book with a little trepidation as I am not such a huge fan of teenage boys! I had recently read Robin McKinley's Dragonhaven (a very different book!), which has a teenage boy narrator, and found it heavy going. But Ned Marriner has a likeable personality, realistic but not annoying, and is a sympathetic viewpoint character. I especially enjoyed the dynamic between him and the adults around him, as he seeks both their support and his independence.

Provence is gloriously depicted, and the rented villa sounds idyllic! Into this paradise come violent events from prehistory, as mysterious figures loom, appear and threaten. There are violent scenes, but things never get as dark as, say, the events of Fionavar. I don't feel this is a bad thing though, as the characters and atmosphere are all as strong as one expects from Kay.

Many readers seem to have been disappointed by this book, and to be sure, it is not in the same class as Fionavar or Sarantium. But Kay is doing something different here, looking at the invasion of the distant past into our modern world, and the effect this has on a couple of teenagers and those who seek to protect them. As such, I think he succeeds admirably in showing how they are all forced to change their assumptions and broaden their horizons, as well as writing a thoroughly compelling story. This book could appeal to a younger audience than is usual for Kay's writing, which can only be a good thing for his continuing popularity.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Falls short of the Kay gold standard, 9 Sep 2010
This review is from: Ysabel (Paperback)
Ysabel was a rather mixed experience as I consider Guy Gavriel Kay to be a very talented writer and evocative storyteller. The most enjoyable part of reading this book was the wonderful sense of place and history that it imparts. If you live or have travelled in Provence then the descriptions of sunlight and shadow, architecture and landscape reminds you what is so attractive, for many, about that part of the world. The underlying wealth of history, always a strong point in his novels, is here too - sometimes hinted at, sometime clearly written. Yet the novel never quite reached its full potential for me.

The two biggest drawbacks definitely are the characterization and dialogue. Ned Marriner, the initially reluctant hero, I think is fairly well-depicted as a teenager who is going through growing pains to find his place in the world. The internal struggles of dealing with a successful, and famous, photographer father and an absent but dedicated mother, who works as a doctor in some of the world's more troubled countries, is deftly done in the early parts of the book. However I did not find Ned a particularly engaging character. Perhaps due to his dialogue which largely appeared to be of either questioning others, making rather bad puns and jokes and learning how to flirt with girls. Because Ned is the focal point much of the action and dialogue refers to mobile phones, emails, texts and every day technology. All of which seems to jar against the story line - it reads as self-conscious and uncomfortable, as though the writer thought it had to be included but did so uneasily.

Most of the other characters surrounding Ned are not well-served in the book. I found that rather disappointing as usually Guy Gavriel Kay's writing portrays people with wit, intelligence and resourcefulness but here you get rough outlines of those attributes. The hints you receive are intriguing but never reach a fully-fleshed out stage. The "villains" of the novel are of greater interest in that they do show more strongly what they could be. As it came to its ending I couldn't help but wish that the book had been given over to them and their background rather than Ned and his family.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ysabel, 27 July 2010
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This review is from: Ysabel (Paperback)
Having read several books by Guy Gavriel Kay including the wonderful Fionavar Trilogy over a decade ago, I looked forward to reading Ysabel. I was not disappointed. The book engaged from page 1 and the teenage lead character did not put me off at all (he's just not the annoying sort of teenager). The story takes place in the here and now and the south of France is beautifully described and the plot zings along with interesting twists.( I have to own up to taking a while to working out who Aunt Kim and Uncle Dave were...I had a 'duh!' moment when I did! ) I read it twice in quick succession and couldn't put it down either time.I found it beautifully crafted and wanted to read more
If you have read any of Kay's other books you won't regret reading this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better Than I Thought it Would Be, 20 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Ysabel (Hardcover)
This is an odd book to write a review for. The number of people and reviews that refer to it as the weakest of Kay's books, or not as good as his other work was almost universal, so I went in not expecting anything stellar, although it needs to be said that even a bad Kay book is going to be better than the majority of other fantasy on the market.

Maybe it is because it took me so long to read it (over 2 months!)but I really enjoyed it, a lot, lot more than I thought I would have done.

The story is that of a young man working in the south of France with his father. But he is drawn into a conflict between two men; not just any men though but two men who have been born time and again over thousands of years, each time to fight one another for the love of an equally ancient woman.

The story is entwined with ancient history and Celtic mythology, a mystery that needs to be solved, and one that becomes more intense as a friend is drawn into it, apparently lost to the world.

In many ways it is very different to all of Kay's other work; most of that is based in fantasy world; worlds that have strong connotations to the real world, drawing on genuine historical situations and twisting them into a slightly different, warped image of what was.

This works in a different way, taking the real world and twisting it slightly, and that is what might make it the least popular of Kay's works.

However, maybe it is being force to linger on it that made me enjoy it more, or perhaps it was just something in the story that appalled to me, but I thought it was up there with the best of Kay.

Perhaps one of the strongest parts of the story, the most important is the fact the novel is a sequel in many ways to Kay's first major work The Fiovanar Tapestry.

Characters from that book appear and some of what happened there is explained in a different light, strengthening what has gone before but more importantly they give the impression of time moving on, that characters that appeared in a book that was read years ago have grown up and changed, whilst holding on to those very events that changed them so much.

Not Kay's best? Probably not, but certainly not his worst
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A let down compared to other GGK novels, 1 Jan 2008
By 
Marko K. Susimetsa (Finland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ysabel (Paperback)
I've grown accustomed to picking up a GGK novel and being transported to a fantasy world beyond comparison. Tigana, Al-Rassan etc. do this to you and make you want to re-read those novels time and time again even if you have a pile of unread books waiting their turn from other authors. Unfortunately, Ysabel falls short of Kay's usual excellence with a mediocre, even light plot, shallow characters and way too detailed and travel-book like descriptions of the area of Provence. It seems as if GGK paid as much attention to writing his book as his main protagonist pays on writing his school essays... Perhaps Provence was _too_ beautiful?

In some sense, Ysabel is clearly targeted towards a younger audience than GGK's other works. Perhaps he also wrote this more to his own kids than to his usual grown-up fans?
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful novel, 27 Feb 2007
By 
Patrick St-Denis "editor of Pat's Fantasy Hot... (Laval, Quebec Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ysabel (Paperback)
Prior commitments prevented me from reading this novel as soon as I would have wanted to. And now that I've finally read it, I wish I could have done so earlier. Typical of Kay, Ysabel stands head and shoulders above most fantasy books out there. Some might disagree, but Guy Gavriel Kay is likely the only writer who has yet to disappoint me. Every time this author releases a novel, I always know that I'm about to plunge into a superior tale. And Ysabel is no exception!

This one takes place in a contemporary setting, namely in and around Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France. Kay was living in the area while researching and writing Ysabel, and his firsthand experience ensures an authentic feel throughout the novel. Not surprisingly, the narrative is evocative and the resulting imagery leaps through every page.

Kay took on quite a challenge when he made a teenager the story's main protagonist. Indeed, very few authors succeed at developing believable and genuine teenage characters. Two that immediately come to mind are Robin Hobb and George R. R. Martin. Well, I think that Kay did a splendid job with Ned Marriner, capturing how awkward those years tend to be for young men.

Guy Gavriel Kay is perhaps best known for his thoughful insight into human nature. His characterizations rank among the very best in the genre, and he can somehow convey layers of emotions that few writing today can match. In Ysabel, Kay demonstrates how skilled he is at developing a cast of disparate characters. Understandably, the relationships between the Marriner family members take center stage. And yet, several secondary characters provide depth to a work that already resounds with it.

The author always does his homework, which is evident once again in Ysabel. The pace and the dialogues are perfect. The storylines are convoluted enough to keep you turning those pages well past your bedtime a few nights running!

As a Montrealer myself, I got quite a kick out of all those Montreal references (the Marriner family hails from MTL). I have to admit that it's kind of neat to have a Canadian as the main character of Ysabel. In addition, the narrative brought me back in time, back to when I first visited Provence. For the record, my first experience in Aix was nowhere near as traumatic as Ned's. The highlight for me, if I remember correctly (keep in mind I was part of a Contiki tour) was finding a working ATM!

Although universally acclaimed, or so it seems, at times it feels as though Guy Gavriel Kay remains the most underappreciated fantasy author in the world today. If you haven't had the pleasure already, do yourself a favor and read Kay's brilliant works in which history and fantasy come together and create something only a Kay novel can deliver! Believe me when I say you'll be glad you did!

Ysabel is without the shadow of a doubt one of the books to read in 2007.

[...]
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One of his worst, 12 Jun 2010
By 
P. Simpson - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ysabel (Paperback)
Guy Gavriel Kay is one of the finest fantasy wirters. The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy would be in my top twenty. His subsequent novels have ranged from excellent to good. Sad to say Ysabel left me cold. It just did not have that depth of characterisation & beautiful writing which I expect from his novels. To me it seemed like it had been written in a rush and for the teen market. Mr Kay trust your readership - we are not all teenagers.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wow! Its great to meet old friends!, 14 May 2007
By 
Adam Frost "'Jack'" (Cheshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ysabel (Paperback)
What can I say? Having waited with baited breath for the next Guy Gavriel Kay novel, I am not disappointed! What's even better is you reacquaint yourself with some old familiar friends from the Fionavar tapestry (a trilogy whose brilliance remains undimmed through the fog of time!), this was a welcome surprise. The plot itself is brightly woven, with interesting characters, classy dialogue and a perfect plot. In fact i'm surprised this review is making any sense as I literally could not put the book down until 3 this morning!

With the exception of Robin Hobb, Guy Gavriel Kay is one of the few authors who can achieve this. The downside is I'm now going to have to read all his other books again in order to bide my time for the next new one!
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4.0 out of 5 stars She is worth it, always and forever, 30 May 2014
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This review is from: Ysabel (Paperback)
Guy Gavriel Kay was born in Canada in 1954 and writes fantasy fiction. “The Summer Tree” – his debut novel and the first in his Fionavar Tapestry trilogy - was first published in 1984. “Ysabel” is his tenth novel, and was first published in January 2007. It was nominated for the White Pine Award and won the 2008 World Fantasy Award in the Novel category.

Ned Marriner is fifteen years old and – thanks to his dad – his school year has finished a little early. Ned’s father, Edward, is an internationally renowned photographer and has brought Ned with him to Aix-en-Provence for six weeks, while he works on an assignment. (Ned’s mother works with Médecins sans Frontières and is currently in the Sudan; Aix was clearly the safer option).

The first day of the shoot sees Edward and his team focus on Aix’s very historic Saint-Sauveur Cathedral. Despite being very popular with the tourists, the cathedral has been sealed off for the shoot – which should have allowed Ned to explore inside by himself. However, when he enters, he meets Kate Wenger, an exchange student from New York and a self-confessed geek. The pair are then startled by a man, crawling up through a grate in the floor of the baptistery. The stranger, who won’t share his name, is a threatening-looking individual who warns them to give him a wide berth. He also, however, says just enough for the teenagers to get interested – and when Ned discovers he can sense the man’s presence, he just can’t back off. Ned and Kate are then drawn into a dangerous, supernatural tale of Romans and Celts.

I picked up “Ysabel” largely because of its location – I’m due to visit Aix this summer while on holiday. I did enjoy the book, and it’s added a few places to my must-see list...but I can’t ever see anyone referring to it as ‘literature’. Kate in particular was a very likeable character, though Ned himself can be a bit of a nuisance at times. (His taste in music is also a little jumbled –he claims to be a fan of both the Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin, and yet also has Coldplay on his iPod. He even manages to refer to their music as “rock” at one point). Good fun overall though; it’s more geared towards the teen-fantasy market, though it’s also worth reading if you’re travelling to Aix.
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Ysabel
Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay (Paperback - 5 Mar 2007)
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